1 Connecting to Collections: A Report to the Nation A Call to Action
2 Institute of Museum and Library Services 1800 M Street NW, 9th Floor Washington, DC IMLS (4657) IMLS will provide visually impaired or learning-disabled individuals with an audio recording of this publication upon request. Printed September 2010 in the United States of America Written by John DiConsiglio Graphic Design by Beth Singer Design, LLC Publication Production by Ellen Arnold Photographic Research by Katherine Bowen Front cover photos, left to right: Spirit, a 1902 Dentzel carousel horse from the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont; Register books, ca. 1900, from the District of Columbia Government Office of Public Records in Washington, D.C.; Image from the Varsha Ritu or Rainy Season mural in an Indian village in the state of Orissa; Australian landscapes from the University of California Botanical Garden. Back cover photos, left to right: 17th-century Korean gilt wood bodhisattva from the Samuel P. Harn Museum in Gainesville, Florida; Australian landscapes from the University of California Botanical Garden; Last Will and Testament of Blanche I. Bruce, from the District of Columbia Government Office of Public Records in Washington, D.C.; Acoma jar from the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture Laboratory of Anthropology, Department of Cultural Affairs in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
3 Contents 1 Connecting To Collections: Our Cultural Heritage At Risk 8 Making Connections: The National Conservation Summit and Forums 18 Carrying the Message Overseas: The Salzburg Global Seminar 26 The Bookshelf: Arming Institutions with the Resources They Need 32 State-to-State: Statewide Partnership Grants Make a Mark Across the Map 37 The Impact and the Future: IMLS Preserves the Treasures of the Past and Supports the Institutions that Protect them These original consecrated pages with excerpts from the Lotus Sutra were found inside the hollow body cavity of a 17thcentury gilt wood bodhisattva. They have been removed for conservation (Samuel P. Harn Museum in Gainesville, Florida).
4 Special Thanks Institute of Museum and Library Services staff in every department across the agency played a role in the Connecting to Collections initiative, which was led by: Nancy Rogers Senior Project Coordinator Abigail Swetz Program Specialist Marsha L. Semmel Acting Director, Deputy Director for Museums, and Director for Strategic Partnerships Mary L. Chute Deputy Director for Libraries Mamie Bittner Deputy Director for Policy, Planning, Research, and Communications See page 41 for a complete list of initiative partners and contributors. An American flag made in 1865, showing new repairs, is rolled for storage by staff member Mary Williamson (American Textile History Museum, Lowell, Massachusetts).
5 Connecting To Collections: Our Cultural Heritage At Risk The Tucson Museum of Art (TMA) has a virtual treasure trove of cultural landmarks within its collection. Among the museum s trusts is an original Andy Warhol piece and a seven-foot-high statue of the Virgin Mary that dates back to the late 17th century. These are remarkable objects, says Susan Dolan, TMA s collections manager. The public should see them. But there s a good chance that these artistic masterpieces will never be put on display. Why? Their condition is so bad and they are in such dire need of preservation that they can barely be moved, much less exhibited. The Warhol has sustained severe water damage. And the wood and silver statue of Mary is so fragile that Dolan worries it might crumble to pieces. Glance at libraries, museums, and archives around the country and a sad truth will become instantly clear: The Tucson Museum s woes are hardly unique. In Washington, D.C., the Stuart-Hobson Middle School is home to irreplaceable parent-teacher association scrapbooks and historical school photos that date back to The documents shed light on everything from the ethnic origins of families to local outbreaks of scarlet fever. They tell the story of the nation s struggle with integration when the originally white-only school admitted African-American students after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision. But these documents have sat in a littleused storeroom, weathering the ravages of humidity, bugs, and decay. In Honolulu, Hawaii, the Bishop Museum is home to three magnificent traditional cloaks, one of which is 300 years old. The Conservator Bob Barclay places this sacred feathered cloak, once worn by male members of the Hawaiian royal class, on its mount (Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii). Connecting to Collections: A Report to the Nation 1
6 A Public Trust at Risk A Public Trust at Risk: The Heritage Health Index (HHI) Report on the State of America s Collections, a project cosponsored by IMLS and Heritage Preservation, revealed that our nation s collections of objects, documents, and digital materials, though essential to America s cultural health, are imperiled by improper care and in need of protective action. The study s findings are sobering. The HHI found that 190 million objects held by archives, historical societies, libraries, museums, and scientific organizations in the United States are in need of conservation treatment. 65 percent of collecting institutions have experienced damage to collections due to improper storage. 80 percent of collecting institutions do not have an emergency plan that includes collections, with staff trained to carry it out. 40 percent of institutions have no funds allocated in their annual budgets for preservation or conservation. eight-foot-wide garments are made of bundles of tiny red and yellow feathers from now-extinct birds. But the cloaks themselves face an uncertain future. Without much-needed preservation, they risk withering into a pile of feathers. I N D A N G E R : 13.5 million historic objects from flags and quilts to presidential china and Pueblo pottery 4.7 million works of art These stories are everywhere from the most famous museums to the smallest county libraries. At the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, humidity and temperature have damaged the skins of the mighty elephant exhibits. At the University of South Dakota s I.D. Weeks Library, nearly 300,000 photos of Jazz Age greats like Chet Baker have slowly deteriorated due to chemical exposure. A flash flood sent a seven-foot wall of mud and water through the Hamilton Library at the University of Hawaii. It destroyed more than 100,000 maps of early island explorations. And, at the Denver Public Library, 100 volumes of documents that chart the legacy, history, and lineage of families in frontier outposts are threatening to crumble after years of exposure to light and dust. More than 4.8 billion artifacts are held in public trust by more than 30,000 archives, historical societies, libraries, museums, scientific research collections, and archaeological repositories in the United States. They are visited more than 2.5 billion times a year. These artifacts embody the richness and diversity of our heritage. They include rare books and manuscripts, photographs, documents, sound recordings, moving images, digital materials, art, historic and ethnographic objects, archaeological artifacts, and natural science specimens. But these treasures face such overwhelming hazards that 189 million they are in danger of disappearing. In communities natural science specimens around the country, museums and libraries face losing their collections to everyday threats like exposure to light, humidity, high or fluctuating temperatures, and pest infestation. A 2005 study by the nonprofit organization Heritage Preservation, supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), found that nearly 190 million objects in U.S. collections are in urgent need of treatment or attention. 153 million photographs 270 million rare and unique books, periodicals, and scrapbooks Each year, millions of Americans experience the cherished collections of maps, quilts, recordings, paintings, and countless other treasures held in our libraries, museums, archives, historic houses, and gardens. These priceless pieces of our past serve to enlighten, inform, and inspire all of us from the schoolchild to the scholar. They help to give our communities a sense of place and identity, says Dr. Anne-Imelda M. Radice, former director of the IMLS. But just as these chapters bear testimony to our rich past, so too are they being erased from our memory. Priceless pages from our national diary from art objects to historical artifacts, from scrapbooks compiled over generations to modern digital collections are imperiled by hazards such as time, flood, and fire. And, although the stories these treasures tell are timeless, the collections themselves are not. Sadly, once we lose these collections, we cannot get them back a possibility with profound impact for future generations of learners, Radice says. For many in the conservation community, the HHI figures served as a wake-up call a clear representation 2 Chapter 1: Connecting to Collections
7 American Heritage Preservation Grant Spotlights Partnering with the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, IMLS launched the American Heritage Preservation Grants, a series of awards to small museums, libraries, and archives to treat, rehouse, and improve the storage environments of important collections. Through this public private partnership, 107 cultural heritage institutions have received grants of up to $3,000 to preserve treasures, including works of art, artifacts, and historical documents that convey the essential character and experience of the United States. Center for Wooden Boats Seattle, WA Year: 2009 Amount: $3,000 The Center for Wooden Boats is having a custom canvas cover designed and installed on Shrimpo, a sailboat built in 1914 by America s Cup champion sloop designer Nathaniel Herreshoff. The cover will protect the boat from rain while in storage, thus preventing deterioration of the wooden hull. The design process will be shared with visitors and interpretive signage will discuss the importance of preventive care. Union County Historical Society Clayton, NM Year: 2009 Amount: $2,991 The Herzstein Memorial Museum, part of the Union County Historical Society in Clayton, New Mexico, is addressing the storage of 1,600 photographs and 1,500 negatives that represent more than 100 years of community history. Funds are helping the museum buy folders, boxes, shelving, and environmental monitoring equipment that will allow it to improve the care for its collection while also making it more accessible to the community. These WWII-era posters are important to the collective memory of their community and the nation (Delaware County Community College, Media, Pennsylvania). Delaware County Community College Media, PA Year: 2009 Amount: $3,000 The library at Delaware County Community College is using the funds to conserve 19 original World War II posters that were collected by a member of the community in the 1940s. The posters were produced by various government and civilian agencies and were used to encourage the enlistment of men and women into military service, the purchase of war bonds, donation of blood, planting of Victory Gardens, and a general feeling of patriotism to win the war. The preservation measures will allow the posters to be made available for exhibit at the college, loaned to community organizations, and used by history faculty at the college and requesting schools. Eric Dow, a professional wooden boatbuilder from Maine, leads a group of volunteers and students in the installation of a new sheer clamp for Shrimpo (Center for Wooden Boats, Seattle, Washington). Connecting to Collections: A Report to the Nation 3
8 Saving collections is a theme that brings libraries and museums together. There is nothing that doesn t need conservation, preservation, public awareness, public respect for collections. Former IMLS director, Anne-Imelda M. Radice The hides of these elephants in the American Museum of Natural History were threatened due to polluted air, fluctuations in temperature and relative humidity, and other perils (New York, New York). of the problems plaguing the nation s cultural institutions. The HHI was a watershed moment in this field, says Ellen Holtzman, program director for American art at the Henry Luce Foundation. Everyone was aware of the conditions we face in this community. But we didn t know the numbers. We didn t realize the extent of the ongoing need. Having that data in front of us certainly opened some eyes. But compiling statistics was only the first part of a landmark conservation effort. We now had all this information we had learned about our needs in terms of materials, staffing, funding, environmental issues, emergency response, notes Debra Hess Norris, chair of the Art Conservation Department at the University of Delaware. But how do you translate that into an initiative and really make a difference for large, small, and medium-sized institutions? To confront this crisis, IMLS launched Connecting to Collections, a national initiative to raise public awareness of the importance of caring for our treasures and to underscore the fact that these collections are essential to the American story. Since 2007, IMLS has traveled to cities across the country to inspire and inform collections care professionals and sound the alarm for action to save our nation s collections. Connecting to Collections is a fabulous outgrowth of the [HHI] study and a global model of what can be accomplished if we reach out to the entire community and we all work together, Norris says. A Call to Action In response to the study's findings, the HHI made four recommendations to help institutions avoid serious conservation problems and the possible loss of the nation s most valued treasures: Institutions must give priority to providing safe conditions for the collections they hold in trust. Every collecting institution must develop an emergency plan to protect its collections. Every institution must assign responsibility for caring for its collection to members of its staff. Individuals in both the public and private sectors must assume responsibility for providing support.
9 and territories and five Implementation Grants have been awarded. Many of the artifacts that teach us about science, history, and art are at risk. But, thanks to the efforts of IMLS and other conservation organizations and professionals, there are success stories too. At the Tucson Museum, a $66,000 Conservation Project Support grant helped relieve space problems and paid for, among other items, rolling storage cases that contain Mexican folk art and pre-columbian textiles. IMLS is also aiding the museum s efforts to restore the statue of the Virgin Mary. A conservator works to ensure that the mount for a sacred feathered cloak (shown on page 1) will help to preserve the piece (Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii). With its partners and colleagues, and with support from a variety of sources, IMLS held a national summit to engage leaders and explore strategies for preserving endangered collections. IMLS launched a national tour with forums in Atlanta, Denver, San Diego, and Buffalo, addressing topics such as digitizing works and caring for living collections like plants and animals. It held an international summit in Salzburg, Austria, that brought together 60 cultural heritage leaders from 32 countries to address the world s most pressing conservation dilemmas. It created a Bookshelf a collection of vital resources to help sustain the work of the preservation community and distributed it free of charge to 3,000 small and mediumsized institutions. It instituted a series of Statewide Planning and Implementation Grants to foster partnerships and cooperation among organizations and conservation professionals. Planning grants have been awarded to 57 states, commonwealths, D I D Y O U K N O W? 52 million paper artifacts from historic documents to baseball cards need preservation. Washington s Stuart-Hobson Middle School received an IMLSfunded grant to rescue its historical documents and develop a school archive. The grant enabled the school to hire two part-time archivists. Under their direction, students have gotten into the preservation act, sorting, cataloging, and preserving school artifacts. And in Honolulu, an IMLS grant helped the Bishop Museum repair its fragile feathered cloaks. Much of the painstaking restoration process which involved fixing broken netting and reattaching loose feather bundles was done with the help of two graduate-level conservation program interns from New York University. The summer internship program was fostered by IMLS initiatives. And although the interns spent exhausting hours sewing and mending the cloaks sometimes restoring as little as an inch a day they called it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. As one intern said, It took me out of the theory of the classroom into the real-world application of methodology. From special conservation grants to national forums serving local museums and libraries, IMLS has helped inform the public and the preservation community about the dangers our nation s collections face and how to rescue them. IMLS gratefully acknowledges the expert work of our cooperating partners for this initiative: Heritage Preservation and the American Association for State and Local History. Water damage is a serious concern for collecting institutions. This original Andy Warhol was donated (in its pictured condition) to the Tucson Museum of Art, where it will be conserved (Cow Wallpaper 2010 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society [ARS], New York, New York). Connecting to Collections: A Report to the Nation 5
10 Coming to the Rescue: IMLS Aids Katrina Recovery Hurricane Katrina devastated cities, homes, and lives. It destroyed the cultural artifacts housed in the Gulf region s small and medium-size institutions and in people s homes. People would say, I lost my wedding pictures, I lost the family Bible. It was their connection to their history, said former IMLS director Anne-Imelda M. Radice in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. IMLS came to the rescue by giving aid to museums and libraries throughout the region for such activities as conservation of damaged objects, educational programming, archival storage, and the establishment of temporary facilities for damaged institutions. IMLS collaborated with such organizations as the Southeastern Museums Conference, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Southeastern Library Network in this effort to help and speed the recovery process after the devastating hurricane. Among the grant recipients were the following: The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Maritime Museum in Madisonville, Louisiana, used a $25,000 grant to restore and stabilize Tchefuncte River Lighthouse, the oldest and most intact of the lighthouses in the New Orleans area. Longue Vue House and Gardens in New Orleans used its $24,375 grant to repair severe flood damage and replace ruined servers, hard drives, and software. The Southeastern Library Network in Atlanta, Georgia, received $866,284 for the Staffing Gulf Coast Libraries Project to create staff capacity and build professional development skills in 16 public library systems in Louisiana and Mississippi that suffered severe damage and destruction from hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The grant is providing staff to run temporary library facilities in communities while permanent libraries are being planned and rebuilt, in addition to providing continuing education, including collections care, for the staff involved. The project works in synergy with a grant from the Gates Foundation to support the recovery of libraries in the region. The William Carey University in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. The building that housed the art museum was completely destroyed and all supporting collection materials were lost. A $20,882 IMLS grant helped conserve 17 damaged works, support a registrar to assess and recover information about the collection, and create archival storage for works of art. Timely restoration of the Tchefuncte River Lighthouse is credited with saving the structure from serious damage after hurricanes Gustav and Ike passed through just days after the exterior restoration was complete (Lake Pontchartrain Basin Maritime Museum, Madisonville, Louisiana).
11 IMLS The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute s mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development. (left) In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, many institutions on the Gulf Coast were forced to implement emergency collections salvage plans to save artifacts, like this artwork by Moses Toliver, from irreparable damage (Ohr O Keefe Museum, Biloxi, Mississippi). (below) Books and government documents in ruins after a 2004 flood of the Hamilton Library in Hawaii. (center) Staff at the Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collections opened the cans containing the Kaliska-Greenblatt Home Movie Collection to reveal deteriorated films that were curled and shrunken (Athens, Georgia). (below) Until discovered and corrected, improper storage threatened to damage this photo of jazz trumpeter Chet Baker at the I.D. Weeks Library at the University of South Dakota, Vermillion. (right & below) A flash flood sent mud and debris through the Hamilton Library at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, destroying approximately 110,000 maps. Fortunately, due to its emergency disaster plan, the library was able to save this 1589 map, Maris Pacifica, by Abraham Ortelius. (left) Stains on an American flag made in 1865 are gently sponge-cleaned off by a staff member at the American Textile History Museum in Lowell, Massachusetts. Connecting to Collections: A Report to the Nation 7
12 Making Connections: The National Conservation Summit and Forums In Gainesville, Florida, the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art has struggled to find space for all of the 7,500 items in its collection, from a 17th-century wooden bodhisattva to a crowddrawing Monet. At the University of California at Berkeley Botanical Garden, conservation professionals have long feared the prospect of a wildfire laying waste to its 37 acres and the 20,000 plants that make up one of the country s largest living collections. This 17th-century gilt wood bodhisattva from Korea today resides at the Samuel P. Harn Museum in Gainesville, Florida. X-rays (performed in collaboration with the University of Florida, Shands Hospital) determined that sutra pages (religious documents) lay in both the head and the body of the figure. The pages in the body have been removed for conservation. And, at the Georgetown County Library in South Carolina, staff has made a sustained effort to secure the grants and institutional collaboration needed to digitize 17,000 historical pieces from maps and newspapers to photographs and family albums. What do all of these institutions have in common? They are staffed by a gifted, dedicated, and diverse patchwork of professionals. By tending to archival, library, museum, digital, and living collections, they are the gatekeepers of our nation s memories. And, unfortunately, they are struggling with the same issues that bedevil their fellow conservation experts around the country. From Bridgeport to Biloxi, museums and libraries face damage to their collections because of poor conditions and everyday threats from exposure to light, humidity, and high temperature to infestation by bugs and vermin. Natural disasters from floods to earthquakes threaten to destroy national treasures. And, among institutions with no emergency plan in place, collections can be decimated by burst water pipes or poor storage conditions. At the Museum of Indian and Cultural Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a broken hot water pipe flowed unchecked for nearly 24 hours. More than 1,400 boxes of collections were temporarily submerged including archeological material from 9,000 B.C.
13 Throughout the nation, collections at libraries, museums, and archives are at risk of being lost, destroyed, damaged, or rendered inaccessible, warns Allen Weinstein, former archivist of the United States. Weinstein notes that even the National Archives collections have been hurt by floodwaters. And no less a national treasure than the Declaration of Independence has been damaged by natural aging, exposure to light, and poor storage. Operating costs especially for energy, security, and personnel are rising and increasing the challenge of providing the optimum storage environment. But even when resources are limited, we must all make it clear that preservation remains a high priority for our various institutions. As IMLS launched its Connecting to Collections initiative, the agency embarked on a campaign to share resources with and inspire conservation professionals. From 2007 to 2010, IMLS hosted meetings and forums on a five-city national tour, working in partnership with Heritage Preservation. The goal was to bring together professionals from all types of collecting institutions: museums, libraries, archives, and those with living collections. The gatherings helped the staffs of collecting institutions create networks and trade success stories with colleagues in different types of institutions. They heard and shared ideas. More than 1,300 museum and library professionals shared ideas about everything from emergency planning to digitizing their collections and preserving those digitized materials. The prospect of meeting other people in our field, sharing what works and what doesn t, that is incredibly valuable for a library of my size, says Dwight McInvaill, director of the Georgetown County Library, a medium-sized facility that serves about 60,000 South Carolina residents. This exchange of ideas isn t something that happens every day. The National Conservation Summit June 27 28, 2007, Washington, D.C. In 2007, IMLS kicked off its national outreach tour with Connecting to Collections: The National Conservation Summit. The meeting brought together more than 300 museum, library, and archives professionals in Washington, D.C. In a series of presentations and discussions, a standingroom-only crowd of summit participants exchanged ideas about how to improve the care of their collections by working with outside experts, new technologies, the public, and funding sources. Four representatives from each state two from libraries and two from museums were invited to attend the summit at the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture of the Smithsonian Institution. They were joined by representatives of granting agencies, conservation organizations, and others knowledgeable about the preservation of collections. Former IMLS director Anne-Imelda M. Radice called the summit a historic opportunity, not only to preserve our ability to look at the past, but to shape the way we look at the future. Throughout the summit, participants networked with conservation professionals and shared information and ideas. As one library director commented, The conference was invaluable in informing us about the scope of the problem and letting us hear what others are doing to correct it. Another said the summit instilled a sense of urgency about the need to share and to protect our historical materials. Over two days, participants heard from four different panels of experts discussing critical subjects: Connecting to Expertise: This panel encouraged participants to reach out to cultural institutions, independent conservators, A broken hot water pipe in an off-site storage facility caused this flood, which endangered important archaeological materials, like this Acoma jar (Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, Santa Fe, New Mexico). Connecting to Collections: A Report to the Nation 9
14 National Conservation Summit Goals To continue to provide librarians, museum professionals, and conservators with the tools and support they need To help the library and museum communities with emergency training, education, conservation information, partnership building and developing careers for a whole new generation of museum, library, and digitization specialists To continue harnessing the power of digital technology for preservation purposes and to make documents available via the click of a mouse To raise awareness among all Americans, especially community funders, about the dire need for conservation and preservation, both in cultural institutions and our homes and other resources. H. T. Holmes, director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, shared lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina. Holmes saw firsthand how long-standing relationships between institutions paid off in a crisis. One must be vigilant all the time about making and maintaining connections with one s regional libraries, records repositories, museums, and with conservations experts, he said. In the case of a disaster, you ll have no time to begin the process of reaching out to people in institutions who either may need help or may be able to offer you help. Connecting to Technology: This panel explored environmental controls, technological items within collections, and using technology for collections access. James Reilly of the Image Permanence Institute at the Rochester Institute of Technology noted that state-of-the-art methods and tools that are new and easy to use can address what he called the most urgent preservation dilemma: environmental controls. But he also stressed that even the most advanced technology is useless if staff isn t comfortable with it. Connecting to the Public: This panel discussed community outreach programs. Kathe Hambrick-Jackson noted that community support was hard to find for Louisiana s River Road African American Museum when she founded it, but going out into the community and getting the word out helped the museum expand its collections and audience. As we try to get people to visit the museum, I realized if they won t come see us, I ll go see them, she says. Her staff attended local festivals, including cooking outings where they presented exhibits about African influences on Louisiana cuisine. Connecting to Funders: This panel introduced fund-raising and donor cultivation strategies. Debra Hess Norris, vice provost for graduate and professional education and chair of the Art Conservation Department at the University of Delaware, outlined several fund-raising strategies, including pursuing multiple funding sources and securing large From 2007 to 2010, IMLS hosted meetings and forums on a five-city national tour. The goal was to bring together professionals from all types of collecting institutions: museums, libraries, and archives. and small grants simultaneously. Fund-raising is continuous, she said. It s ongoing. It s 24/7. Follow up, listen, involve, and collaborate. Preserving America s Diverse Heritage January 31 February 1, 2008, Atlanta, Georgia The Muscogee Creek Nation is planning a new cultural center to celebrate the heritage of the Oklahoma tribe. Among the thousands of planned exhibits at the new center will be bandolier pouches and recordings of older tribe members singing in native languages. But there are two items that, according to Joyce Childers Bear, the Creek Nation historic preservation officer, may not be included in the collection. One is a series of books by the Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology that provides a family tree of the Muscogee tribe. The yellowed, torn pages are badly in need of preservation work. The other is a basket that her tribe made more than 100 years ago. The basket is in fair shape, but it may be the last of its kind. The complex diagonal weaving technique that the tribe used to make the basket hadn t been passed down through the generations. That cultural knowledge, Bear worries, is lost forever. So, as Bear recalls, the invitation to the IMLS forum in Atlanta couldn t have come at a better time. Bear was eager to network with other preservation colleagues and hoped to find tips for everything from digitizing oral histories to finding collaboration partners. Collections like those of the Creek Nation tribe tell the story of America s diverse cultures. But those stories are imperiled. Many small and medium-sized institutions face overwhelming challenges, from handling culturally sensitive objects to difficulties in attracting funding. The Atlanta forum, Preserving America s Diverse Heritage, provided both information and inspiration to help participants care for significant collections even as they mobilize support in their 10 Chapter 2: Making Connections
15 communities. More than 250 conservation experts, government leaders, and museum, library, and archive professionals attended the forum at the High Museum of Art and the Woodruff Art Center, with a particular focus on the needs of small to medium-sized institutions. The forum s speakers were top conservators and distinguished professionals from throughout the nation. They addressed issues of particular importance to diverse institutions caring for objects of cultural sensitivity, photographs, and audiovisual materials as well as issues that affect most collecting institutions, such as the need for improved storage and emergency planning. One panel discussed ways to enhance public outreach and education. Keynote speaker Lonnie G. Bunch, director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, recalled how ordinary objects have the power to move and challenge us while they help us remember. Recently, Bunch said, his museum received an odd new item an old, ratty table made of cheap wood. The table was from a plantation in South Carolina where it had been used by enslaved Africans more than 100 years ago. It wasn t much to look at, but the old table had a rich cultural history. You can see indentations where people put their hands and their plates, Bunch said, and you can imagine the stories, the discussions, the despair, the concerns, the anger, the hope, the belief in a better day, that went around that table. Family portraits, days at the beach, the aftermath of hurricanes, and hundreds of other images depicting decades of events and people in South Carolina are digitally preserved for future generations by the Georgetown County Library (Georgetown, South Carolina). Bear left the forum with new strategies for preserving her tribal treasures. The Creek Nation partnered with the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museums of Natural History to preserve its documents. And it invited members of a local Cherokee cultural center to teach them how to revive diagonal basket weaving. Connecting to Collections: A Report to the Nation 11
16 IMLS on a Five-City National Tour (right) Former director, Anne-Imelda Radice, speaks at the Buffalo, New York, forum. (far right) Attendees of the National Conservation Summit network at the Smithsonian American Art Museum s Luce Center for American Art. (above) Forum attendees enjoy opportunities to make personal and professional connections. (right) Members of Girl Scout Troop 4563 from Arlington, Virginia, speak at the Summit about their projects on conservation. 12 Chapter 2: Making Connections (above) One of the collection items featured in the Girl Scouts presentation was the Queen s Quilt from Iolani Palace in Honolulu, Hawaii. The quilt was begun by Queen Lili uokalani and her retainers during her 1895 imprisonment in the palace.
17 (left) A Hopi basket plaque from the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe, New Mexico. (below) Watercolor of the Diana Pool at Brookgreen Gardens by Eliot O Hara (Georgetown County Library, Georgetown, South Carolina). (above) Moving grasses and a Monkey Puzzle tree are part of the collection at the University of California at Berkeley Botanical Garden. (right) Denver forum attendees walk to the Colorado History Museum for an evening reception. (below) Kathe Hambrick- Jackson, founder and executive director of the River Road African American Museum in Louisiana makes a presentation at the National Conservation Summit. (above) Connections Lab session at the Denver forum. (left) A blue macaw is present as participants sign in at the San Diego forum. The focus of this forum was on the care of living collections. Connecting to Collections: A Report to the Nation 13
18 Packets of Kool-Aid are digitally preserved to tell the story of the popular drink for future generations (Hastings Museum, Hastings, Nebraska). Collaboration in the Digital Age June 24 25, 2008, Denver, Colorado At South Carolina s Georgetown County Library, director Dwight McInvaill s staff has collected more than 200 interviews, oral histories, and photographs that tell generations of local stories from people who lived through the Great Depression to African-Americans who struggled through persecution and prejudice. He has video interviews with World War II veterans and hurricane survivors. And he has tapes and photos of local families that trace the history of the southern county. Now, he just has to figure out what to do with them. Like thousands of collections across the country, those at McInvaill s library are at risk from hazards such as light, temperature, pests, and pollutants. And, like leaders at other institutions, McInvaill wants to transform his boxes of pictures, tapes, and videos into safer and storage-friendly digital works. These are priceless memories and stories, he says. We can t risk seeing them turn into blank tape or dust. Americans are increasingly using the Internet to connect to museum and library resources. A recent IMLS study reports that, in 2006, 310 million of the 1.2 billion adult visits to museums were made online and 560 million of the 1.3 billion adult visits to libraries were made online. Yet the HHI report found that 60 percent of collecting institutions do not include digital preservation in their mission. That was the theme of Collaboration in the Digital Age, the second IMLS forum. More than 239 people attended the Denver forum, which was designed to help museums and libraries think strategically and collaboratively about digitization and digital preservation. The Colorado Historical Society, the Denver D I D Y O U K N O W? 59% of institutions have had their collections damaged by light; 53% have had their collections damaged by moisture. Art Museum, and the Denver Public Library worked together to host the forum. Digitizing special library and museum collections has numerous advantages better collections management, less wear and tear on objects, greater public access. Moving older works from storage to cyberspace can protect valuable historical records from dangers such as moisture and insects. At the same time, digitizing can make fragile, obscure, or stored collections accessible to the public. The Hastings Museum of Natural & Cultural History in Nebraska has a one-of-a-kind collection of Kool-Aid records, celebrating the town where the drink was invented. But some of the inventor s notes and the drink s early packaging are so fragile that it s too risky to put them on display. They are definite candidates for digitization and creating a research component for people to have access to without actually thumbing through the artifacts themselves, said curator Teresa Kreutzer-Hodson. But the challenges of digital technology are also formidable. They include cost, prioritization, and obtaining technical expertise. At the forum, speakers reviewed the fundamentals of digital content creation and preservation, emphasizing practical approaches to planning digital projects, increasing access to collections, enabling digital resources to serve multiple purposes, and protecting digital investments. At Georgetown County Library, McInvaill took advantage of a $350,000 grant and partnership with nine other county cultural agencies to create a collection of 17,000 digital images. The library has constructed a new wing to showcase its digital project, along with an enclosed café that shows digital museum highlights on eight large-screen monitors. The new digital exhibit has drawn crowds and raves from the community. The fact that the public sees how you have safeguarded their history their families, really with the photos and interviews on the screen, that has turned heads, McInvaill says. The public buy-in is phenomenal. They appreciate that we have preserved their families and stories in a permanent way. 14 Chapter 2: Making Connections
19 It s Alive! Petals to Primates: Preservation Challenges of Living Collections February 19 20, 2009, San Diego, California The University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley is nestled in a scenic California canyon. Tourists walk through its 37 acres to see nearly 20,000 different plants. The garden contains a third of all native state plants, as well as exhibits from Mediterranean and Asian climates. And although the beauty of the gardens may attract visitors, the site is equally important for biologists and other scientists. The Berkeley garden houses live type-specimens invaluable living material for the study of plants. And all of these items are a spark away from bursting into flames. That s the lesson director Chris Carmichael has learned as he s watched California wildfires approach the canyon over the last few years. None has ever jumped the ridge and ignited a catastrophic blaze. But Carmichael knows his plants may be living on borrowed time. Wildfires are something I think about every day, he says. We are up in those hills, just north of the fires you see around here. All a fire has to do is crest one ridge and it s on top of us. It s never happened. But it definitely could. Like most living collections institutions, the Berkeley garden has a baseline emergency plan. But unlike animal collections, Carmichael s charges are hard to evacuate in a crisis. If it happens, we ve always thought there s nothing we could do except get ourselves out of the way. Amorphophallus titanium, known as the Corpse Flower due to its distinct smell, in full bloom at the University of California at Berkeley Botanical Garden. The plant typically requires at least seven years of growth before it blooms, but may go much longer. Carmichael was one of the 179 attendees at IMLS s third forum, It s Alive! Petals to Primates: Preservation Challenges of Living Collections, in partnership with the San Diego Zoo. The San Diego meeting addressed issues of pressing concern to the smaller institutions that are stewards of America s collections of plants and animals, including the following: Connecting to Collections: A Report to the Nation 15
20 overwhelming. After networking with other professionals, Carmichael devised an emergency plan that prioritized vital aspects of his collection and worked with the university to map out evacuation strategies. I thought our institution had worked through the issues in our disaster plan, Carmichael says, but I came away [from the forum] with two pages of notes and ideas about what more we can do to address collection preservation and recovery post natural disaster. Monet s Champ d avoine (Field of Oats) before and after conservation (Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, Florida). How to stay current on new directions in collections planning and management How to protect collections from natural disasters How to organize and care for the records and photographs that document collections How to attract funding for collections in tough economic times Zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, nature centers, and living history farms face a range of unique challenges in caring for and sustaining their living collections. These issues are rarely recognized by the public but are of major significance to the survival of animals and plants. For smaller institutions, these problems are especially acute. Carmichael notes that even among the preservation community, living collections have been seen as the field s poor stepchildren. This field has struggled for attention, he notes. In some ways, the baseline preservation concepts are the same as other collections. You are protecting the collection against loss and doing it in a manner that both preserves the collection and doesn t harm the people who work with it. But it gets instantly more complex when you realize that our bottom line is: We are trying to keep things alive! The panelists at the IMLS forum helped Carmichael deal with emergency preparedness issues that he once found Stewardship of America s Legacy: Answering the Call to Action June 16 17, 2009, Buffalo, New York Laura Nemmers has a message for the visitors to the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida. As you stroll through the building, soaking in the 7,500 objects in the collection, enjoy the Asian art exhibits. And make sure you see Monet s 1890 oil canvas Champ d avoine (Field of Oats). But also take a second to think about what goes on behind the scenes of a museum how much effort, care, and funding it takes to present exhibits. I think it s important for the community to understand what we do beyond just putting things up on the wall, says Nemmers, the Harn s registrar. Nemmers s museum deals with many of the same issues that plague small and medium-sized institutions across the country. She doesn t have enough staff or storage space. Only about 5 percent of her collection is photographed in the museum database for identification purposes and digitization. And she s always on the lookout for funding opportunities. So public awareness wouldn t seem like a high priority. But Nemmers, like other conservation professionals, believes that generating interest from her community opens doors to addressing other collection concerns. When you access something, you are agreeing to care for it in perpetuity. That takes a lot of money and a lot of time, she says. But the public doesn t think about how these things come to be. I have a big interest in showing the public the process behind our jobs. 16 Chapter 2: Making Connections